Yellow fever (noun).
an acute, often fatal, infectious febrile disease of warm climates, caused by an RNA virus transmitted by a mosquito, especially Aedes aegypti, and characterized by liver damage and jaundice
Whoops, wrong one.
yellow fever (noun) – the maddening sensation to go crazy for all peoples that is Asian
I might be paraphrasing Webster on that one.
And while that term can apply to both sexes, it definitely has more of a polarizing pull on the fellas.
Double And, might I add, while there is a wide spectrum of Asian, none of them receive quite the same attention as the Japanese. Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and all the rest provide a sense of “mystery and intrigue” to some Western peoples. But I’d argue it’s because of the perceptions of Japanese media— the games, the shows, and yes the adult videos— that Japanese girls get fetishized the way they do.
I’ve been guilty of this myself.
My Yellow Fever Origins
Most of my generation got its gaming start with Mario on the NES or Sonic on the Genesis. I was no different, but I credit Pokemon for introducing me to the concept of slaving away for a game. As my first RPG, Pokemon to me had so many layers I never had to deal with before. It wasn’t just a one-track mission to save the princess or beat the bad guy, but a quest for self-improvement. You didn’t conquer levels. You leveled up yourself. Bond with your pals along the way, all in the name of becoming Pokemon Master.
The show took it one step further, “… to be the very best like no one ever was.” A quote that rivaled Bret “Hit Man” Hart.
I ate that stuff up. Maybe too much. I watched the dynamic between Ash and Misty on the show. She wasn’t a damsel in distress. She was a friend. A friend who secretly harbored feelings for the main character.
I couldn’t remember seeing something like that from my American cartoons, but I’m sure I was just oblivious. Being so involved in the world of Pokemon more likely skewed my view. From here on out, I started to wonder. Maybe this type of girl didn’t exist in America. Could it be a Japanese thing?
I branched out into watching other shows. All of which not only reinforced the idea that Japanese girls are different, but maybe they’re better. I soaked up the images in “harem” anime like Tenchi Muyo and Love Hina. And, it blows my mind to think I liked characters like Shinji Ikari who were super helpless. I guess I related to the weakling who could depend on someone else to show him the way. I appreciated the idea that there was another guy out there that had several hot babes wanting to love him no matter how fragile he was.
At this time, I was horrible at handling rejection. Never did I appreciate the mechanics of a game so much. I wished real life had a pause and resume feature– more time to calculate each move before I made it. If life was like a show, I could fast forward to a better episode.
Whenever I’d get “friend zoned”, I’d bury myself in games. I’d watch more anime. The anime obsession would eventually transition to watching Japanese TV shows, or jdramas as they call it.
These days Twilight gets a lot of flack for leading teenage girls on with the concept of “undying love”. But I let shows like Lunch no Jou and Nodame Cantabile feed me the same type of belief. Yuko Takeuchi and Juri Ueno became avatars of that ideal girl.
I became so absorbed in my fantastical perception of Japanese culture. I started reinforcing those ideas with distancing language. American girls are like this, but Japanese girls wouldn’t ever do that.
Japanese girls are the most passionate, patient, kind and caring beings on earth.
Eventually, I wound up with some idea that it was only Japanese girls who could really understand me.
Meeting My “Match”
Sure enough, my first girlfriend would be Japanese.
We didn’t have chemistry. We didn’t have a spark. But thanks to my train of thought, I already committed to the belief that this kind of person is someone who I can fall in love with.
I will fall in love with this kind of person. And so I did.
I kept myself in a fantasy, and I turned myself into an anime character in the process. I relied on scripts I’d learned from my experiences in Japanese media. A lot of my conversation and gestures came off as forced instead of natural. I tried so hard to be the ideal boyfriend to match my image of the ideal girlfriend.
But, everything seemed awesome. I was riding that high of having my first serious relationship, so everything was perfect. This went on for three years. She did no wrong, could do no wrong, and would ne’er do a wrongily wrong.
Until she broke up with me. Bonus bummer: I found out she cheated on me.
You’d think that would’ve burst the bubble. There’s no way I would keep thinking that Japanese girls are the best. But alas, I held on.
The Blindness Begins to Break
From 2009-2012, I taught English in Japan. During this time, I started to notice how much other guys were going crazy over Japanese girls too. I wasn’t alone in my way of thinking, but by watching the people around me, I saw really ugly sides of people in the pursuit of a J-girl.
I taught at a senior high school, and so many guys would tell me they were jealous. They wished they worked at my school because so many girls were hot. Those words irked me. It was kind of gross.
This whole time I didn’t even think of ogling them. They weren’t just Japanese girls. They were my students. They had depth.
I witnessed friendships crumble. Guys would be “best friends” until one would call “dibs” on a girl at a bar. They’d point fingers, but Japanese girls didn’t break those bonds. Those guys let themselves throw it away for eye candy.
I think they knew this sort of behavior didn’t work back home, but something about being in a foreign land changed that.
Of course, you had the flip side of the yellow fever concept too. Some people called it white worshiping, others termed it gaijin-hunting. (Foreigners in Japan were known as Gaikokujin, or Gaijin for short. And a Japanese girl who wanted one would be the hunter.)
Here it was again: the fantasy versus the reality. The mystique and intrigue of what wasn’t familiar, except this time it wasn’t wonderful. It was incredibly frustrating. The roles roles were reversed. I was an Asian guy being passed up for dudes who looked more “foreign”.
I’m not going to lie. It made me pretty bitter. When I was overseas, I worked hard to transform myself. And it was for real this time. I got in shape. Instead of sitting by and hoping I’d encounter someone by chance, someone that’d fall in love with me, I worked hard to build my esteem. I tried to be social. And I thought I was doing pretty good.
But no dice. The Japanese girls I bumped into just saw the surface. They already had their minds made up on what I could offer. Even though I was still a foreigner, they wanted to pick something that looked a bit more exotic.
Basically I was hit with some karma for being so shallow, but I still wasn’t able to see the connection between what they were doing and what I did.
The worst example of this idolization came from a friend. He fell in love with a girl at the clothing store. That’s no code for some seedy underground brothel either. She was just a regular girl working in retail.
But my friend just knew she was special. She was beautiful. She was good-looking. She was hot. She was cute. She was really hot.
She talked to him. And even though he couldn’t really understand what she said, nor could he properly express himself to her (they used an iPhone app to communicate, zoinks!) he was about ready to propose.
Maybe my obsession didn’t manifest itself in the same way, but my friend and I had been similar enough in our thoughts. His relationship didn’t work out, and he took it hard. I saw his dream crumble, leaving him a broken mess.
I’ve been there before, but this time as an outsider, I could see more clearly from the beginning. Things never really looked like they would work out. Connecting the dots, seeing the devastating effect it had on my friend snapped me out of my haze.
It wasn’t about race. It wasn’t about nationality. “Japanese girls” weren’t the best. I was typecasting an idea, but people are just that… people. Good and bad. Superficial and deep. Smart and dumb.
I’d been blind. I’d been pretty dumb. And for all my gaijin-hunter frustration? I had a friend unload on me, putting the final nail in the coffin:
All those girls who can fall for something like that… It’s your own damn fault for liking them.